Here Are Two Charts To End Your Day With A Frown (Even If You’re Exceedingly Wealthy)

(Source: Census Bureau)

(Source: Census Bureau)

Like many people in their late 30s, I sigh whenever I see some superstar athlete, billionaire, or Oscar winner who was born way back in 1989, when I was but a pimply adolescent with dreams of being chauffeured around in a stretch Porsche limousine. Know what else is depressing about 1989? The median household income in the U.S. was higher than it was in 2012.

According to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in 2012 was $51,107, down for the fifth year in a row since hitting $55,627 (adjusted for inflation) in 2007, and several hundred dollars below the $51,681 (in 2012 dollars) earned by the median household in 1989.

On a silver-lining kind of note, we’re still above the early ’90s recession trough of $48,884. So we’ve got that going for us…

Meanwhile, the highest-earning 5% of households (see below) had average income of $191,156 in 2012, a sizable improvement over the inflation-adjusted 1989 number of $164,041. But even these most well-heeled Americans are still reeling from the economic crash, as this figure has hovered around the $190,000 mark since falling off its 2006 peak of $198,166. For an income group that saw its average inflation-adjusted income soar by 35% from $144,000 to to $195,000 during the same time period as median household income only netted a 15% increase, no growth might is like being poor.

(Source: Census Bureau)

(Source: Census Bureau)

And then there is the most depressing line on the graph — income from the lowest 10% household income group. With an average income of $12,236 in 2012, these households were faring better as far back as 1988 when they averaged $12,242. Even the 1984 inflation-adjusted number of $11,991 is only 2% less than the current average income level of this group.